2013-08-09 06:13

The American Athletic Conference is an offspring of the Big East.
The Big East did have a lot of Non-Football-Teams and since the conference invited more and more Football-Teams in the past, the Non-Football-Teams were afraid to lose control over their conference.
After some public and for sure non-public clashes, the Big East did kick out all those Football-Teams and decided to no longer to offer football as sport.
The kicked out teams did join forces and founded the American Athletic Conference, or short The American.

Last season (2012) the conference (the then Big East) had just 8 teams playing football.
There were rumours or even statements before the 2012 season over joining teams, but at the end many of them did chose another conference.
TCU wanted to join for example, but did get a better deal from the BIG 12.
The Big East did lose West Virginia on a very quick exit to the Big 12 in 2012 and did only add Temple to replace it.
So they were fine for 2012 with 8 teams, but the future looked bad.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse did announce their leave for 2013 (to the ACC).
Rutgers (goes to the Big Ten 2014) did announce their leave and Louisville did also announce their departure for 2014 (to the ACC).
Not good, right? 8 - 2 -2 => 6 Teams in 2013, 4 Teams in 2014?

No, not good. But the Big East (before the kick out movement) was able to get other schools from Non-BCS-Conferences to join.

Houston, UCF, SMU and Memphis agreed to join for 2013. Also planned were Boise State and SDSU, but both teams did decide to NOT join (from the MWC, a Non-BCS-Conference), because for the upcoming playoff system and automatic BCS Bowl recalculation, see my MWC preview).
It was announce, that the Big East has to compete with the MWC, the CUSA, the MAC, and the Sun Belt Conference for an automatic BCS Bowl berth next season.
A status the Big East had until this season included, but might lose it in 2014 and it looks like Boise State and SDSU did see the MWC in the lead for that berth, not the Big East. Autsch.

Still, the Big East added Conference USA teams of Tulane and East Carolina for 2014 and Navy for 2015. Then came the split and The American did basically get all those commitment now.
It is very likely they will try to add some more teams, to get more stable and keep the championship game, they can play when Navy will join in 2015.

Teams added 2013:
UCF (from CUSA)
Houston (from CUSA)
SMU (from CUSA)
Memphis (from CUSA)

Teams lost 2013:
Syracuse (to ACC)
Pittsburgh (to ACC)

So this season there are 10 Teams:
University of Central Florida Knights
University of Cincinnati Bearcats
University of Connecticut Huskies
University of Houston Cougars
University of Louisville Cardinals
University of Memphis Tigers
Rutgers University Scarlet Knights
University of South Florida Bulls
Southern Methodist University Mustangs
Temple University Owls

Now let's get a bit into the details:

UCF Knights
Central Flordia does have George O'Leary in his 10th season.
That's a huge thing, not many coaches do stay so many seasons at one place.
He did win the division last season in the CUSA and will now try to lead his Knights into The American.
They lost against Tulsa in the CUSA Championship game but won their Bowl game.
They do come into a conference, which has to find its identity, so there is easily room for a nice season.

Non-Conference games are against: Akron, @FIU, @Penn State and South Carolina.
That's a nice ramp up phase.
I think they can win 2 to 3 games here. With probably only a loss against South Carolina and a winnable game might happen at Penn State.
But the Lions are a good team, so I think the Knights will probably lose that one.
2-2 is not bad.

Inside the conference they will battle all teams except Cincinnati, and will probably only have to give Louisville the win.
The Rutgers game will be close, and at home, so there can an upset happen (means a Knights win).

At the end they easily get Bowl worthy and will contend in the upper midfield

Cincinnati Bearcats
Tommy Tuberville went to Cincinnati from Texas Tech, a move which was strange.
He assured he will stay at Texas Tech and ONE day later he left for the Bearcats.
He is an experienced coach, but I'm not sure he will stay long here.
All Predecessors did use Cincinnati as jump seat for bigger programs, after terrific season.
Tuberville did downgrade a bit, so ... will he rise again? Does he want to?

Non-Conference games are against: Purdue, @Illinois, Northwestern State (FCS) and @Miami (OH).
If all goes fine, this could be a 4-0 start.
All teams have issues, but probably also the Bearcats.
Still, that was a good team, last season, and Tuberville should be able to keep them on track.

They do avoid UCF in conference games and will battle for a better mid field position.
They have also (as does UCF have) Rutgers at home but this time I think the team will fall.

A Mid field team with a Bowl season.

Connecticut (UConn) Huskies
The Huskies should take a step forward under Paul Pasqualoni in his 3rd year.
But since some nice teams did get mixed new into the conference, the powers did shift a bit.
I don't think they will be better than UCF, so I will sort them in under them, maybe even under Cincinnati.

Non-Conference games are against: Townson (FCS), Maryland, Michigan and @Buffalo.
That's nice, since they have 3 home games.
Michigan is out of scope, the rest might be winnable, but I doubt a win against Maryland.
2-2 record here?

Inside the conference they don't play Houston, which is bad for them, since Houston is at the moment one of the softer teams.
They have Rutgers and Louisville at home and UCF and Cincinnati as away games. They would have been better of the other way around.
Not so good this way. This could be 4 losses and the reason for sorting them into the mid field behind Cincinnati.

Still, there should be a Bowl season coming.

Houston Cougars
Tony Levine in in his 2nd season and has to face a new conference.
Houston was good 2 seasons ago, but stumbled in Levines first season.
Expectations are high, to give the Cougars at least a Bowl season.
This might get tough.

Non-Conference games are against: Southern (FCS), @Rice, @UTSA and BYU.
They will probably drop BYU and win the rest, but don't be too sure.

With not playing against UConn, they have to play all the other big houses and except against Cincinnati all as away games.
So this will be very tough.

I see them in mid field with a small tendency to the lower levels.

Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals had some kind of outing last season.
The Headcoach Charlie Strong was in his 3rd year and managed to win 11 times including a Sugar-Bowl win, after having 7 win seasons before that twice.
He also got the conference title, after winning against Rutgers (and losing against UConn and Syracuse before ..)
His QB will be in everybody mouth this season (Teddy Bridgewater) and will be a strong candidate for the Heisman.
This season will be Cardinals season to lose. Expectations are, they will win (almost) every game.
For the Cardinals, it's the last season in The American, since they will join the ACC next year.

Non-Conference games are against: Ohio, Eastern Kentucky (FCS), @Kentucky and FIU.
Don't be surprised they will win all 4 of those.
Ohio is quite good, but probably not good enough and the Sugar Bowl win might be a hint for the Kentucky game.
This team does not have to fear anyone.

The conference will be decided in games against Rutgers, UCF and @Cincinnati.
Toughest game will be the Scarlet Knights game, luckily for the Cardinals it's at home.

Favourite for the Conference title.

Memphis Tigers
Last season was a brutal year the Tigers.
Justin Fuente was new with the Tigers and they lost 8 times, including a loss against a FCS opponent.
But they finished with 3 wins at the end of the season and all signs are promising.
Now they are in a new, tougher conference and they have to show, how far they came.
They will battle every week to avoid the last place in the conference.

Non-Conference games are against: Duke, @Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State and UT-Martin (FCS).
That's soft enough to play for wins, but they might lose all but one!
Duke was nice last season and all hopes are there to have them get better, Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State will have to fight strong, but they might "upset" Memphis.

They don't have to play Rutgers, so their conference record might get an additional win, instead a sure loss.
Key game will be end of November against Temple, at home.

I’m expecting an almost last place in the conference here.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers did almost win the conference as only team last season and would have gone to the Sugar Bowl.
Instead they did win a share of the title and did play in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Still good, but the difference is worth around 15 million dollars. Because of one lost game in the season.
So Kyle Flood took over the Knights last season and won a share of the conference and lost in a Non-BCS-Bowl.
He did take over a good team, and made them a bit better.
The problem for the Knights this year will be, that the Cardinals did get even better.
This season is their last as team in The American, they will compete in the Big 10 next season.

Non-Conference games are against: @Fresno State, Norfork State (FCS), Eastern Michigan and Arkansas.
Interesting setup, I think they will come through here with almost perfect or even perfect record.
Biggest Questionmark for me is at the moment Fresno State. Could become tough.
I'm expecting not much from Arkansas this season.

They don't have Memphis in their schedule, so there goes an easy win ...
Louisville is an away game, as is the UCF game.
Cincinnati at home might be the most important game, if they have to align themself behind Louisville.

For sure this is a Bowl team, they are contender and probably one or two steps behind.

South Florida Bulls
The Bulls were a team with some potential. They did upset many big teams in the past and if Jim Leavitt wouldn't have done what he had done (struck a player and tried to hush it away, lying to USF officials and so one) he probably would be still the Headcoach.
He had 5 consecutive Bowls seasons when he was fired.
Then came Skip Holtz and recorded 8-5, 5-7 and 3-9 seasons.
Any Questions?
He was let go (he is now the HC of LT) and Willie Taggart was hired.
He came from Western Kentucky and had a very nice progress with them (but best record was 7-5).
We will see, if he can translate that to South Florida.

Non-Conference games are against: McNeese State (FCS), @Michigan State, FAU and Miami (FL).
I think the FCS game will be a win for sure, the FAU game, very likely and the rest is too tough to manage, if not a very big progress happened.
But 2-2 is fine I think.

They don't play Temple, which will hurt them in their record for sure.
I think they will win a few more games than last season, but they will sort in somewhere in the lower middle.
Bowl season might happen, but this will be hard.
Key game will probably be the game against SMU (at home).

SMU Mustangs
June Jones is in his 6th year now and I think the Sothern Methodist Mustangs fans get a bit nervous.
So far he managed to get 8 wins as maximum and won 2 division titles of the CUSA (2009 and 2010).
That's not why he was hired.
In the same time at Hawai'i he managed to win a conference championship and recorded a season with 10 wins. Ok in the WAC, but still ....
Later he got even more ...
But things like that can't be planned 100%.
He might get things done this year of next or the year after that?
Well, I think it will not happen this year.
They shifted to The American from the CUSA and they will need some time to adjust.

Non-Conference games are against: Texas Tech, Montana State (FCS), @Texas A&M, @TCU.
That FCS game will be a win, for sure, but the rest? Boy, that will be murder. The easiest probably will be Texas Tech, that might even become an upset, but A&M and TCU?
Not this year. I'm expecting a 1-3 record here.

They avoid Louisville which is a winner, but have to face South Florida and Houston on the road, which will probably be deciding games for their conference standings.
I think Jones will manage to get a good performance out of this team, but it will be not enough for a Bowl season.
Upper Bottom team ... if i can say it that way.

Temple Owls
Temple is a bit of a pity.
Matt Rhule is new as Headcoach and he takes over a 4-7 team, which was left by Steve Addazio heading to Boston College.
Not sure if this will help BC, but Temple will have to adjust to their new HC after 2 seasons with his last.
They are still in growing pains shifting from the MAC to the Big East (now The American) last season.
I'm expecting an even worse performance than last season.
Matt Rhule is a long standing Temple assistant coach, who left for the NY Giants last season. So does come back to his roots, but does have a hard job before him.

Non-Conference games are against: @Notre Dame, Fordham (FCS), @Idaho and Army.
That's a nice setup, even if the Irish game will be a sure loss.
They rest are quite weak teams and they might record 3-1 here.

Unfortunately they will have no fun in the conference.
The key games will be @SMU and @Memphis and both are away games. I'm expecting a blank season regarding wins inside the conference.

So my TIP is:
Louisville Cardinals
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
UCF Knights
Cincinnati Bearcats
Connecticut Huskies
Houston Cougars
South Florida Bulls
SMU Mustangs
Memphis Tigers
Temple Owls

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